JDHS volleyball retains Region V title

Falcons go the distance with Crimson Bears in title match

Thunder Mountain’s Audrey Welling tips the ball over Juneau-Douglas’ Shaylin Cesar, center, and Cassie Dzinich at JDHS on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

For the second year in a row, the Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team has taken the Region V title.


The Crimson Bears defeated Thunder Mountain High School 3-2 Saturday at the Southeast tournament championship in Ketchikan. Juneau’s two teams have gone the distance to five sets four times this season. JDHS took the most crucial of those matches, winning (17-25, 25-17, 25-13, 19-25, 15-8) to again deny Thunder Mountain their first region title.

“With these two teams all season it’s been a toss-up,” JDHS varsity coach Lesley Kalbrener said. “We were able to carry it through to the end. It could have been them on a different day and we’re all aware of that.”

The match came down to just a few runs for JDHS, with the most important one coming in the fifth set. Tied 8-8, senior middle hitter Cassie Dzinich took the serve for JDHS. She piled on seven straight points — including two aces — to seal the set 15-8 and punch JDHS’ ticket to the state tournament. Dzinich put 100 percent of her serves in play, hitting an ace on 27 percent of those.

“My first goal was to get it in but my second goal was to get a consistent serve, try to put the ball between two of their defenders,” Dzinich said.

JDHS had worked all season on “controlling what we could control” Kalbrener said. Dzinich’s winning string of serves was evidence of just that: the 5-foot-11 senior’s steady serve allowed the Crimson Bears to take hold of the game’s momentum and not let go.

The JDHS seniors — Leah Spargo, Dzinich, Abby Meiners and Jessica Pierce — each said that focus on the here and now helped the team get over dropping the first set.

“It’s a game to one every time. Every ball matters and there are no little things,” Meiners said.

“This year we really just had the mental picture of we have to get at least to the championship and once we’re there we have to work our butts off,” Spargo said.

TMHS battled hard throughout the match, not allowing JDHS’ heavy hitters to back them down. After going down 10-8 to open the game, the Falcons took the tight first set off the strength of a 6-1 run.

Falcons coach Arnold Ibias was proud of his team’s ability to bounce back from a straight-set loss on Friday.

“Today they laid it all out there, we had our chance and that’s what I am proud of, that they were able to lift themselves up and fight for it,” Ibias said.

JDHS battled back in the second set, putting together their own 13-1 run to tie the match at one set apiece. The third set went the way of the Crimson Bears as well, positioning JDHS for a four-set win.

But the Falcons wouldn’t be daunted. TMHS would take a three-point lead midway through the fourth set and only expand upon that. With a 24-19 lead, a cross-court kill from TMHS sophomore Gabby Sloan ricocheted off the fingertips of a JDHS blocker, ending the set 25-17 in the Falcons’ favor and sending the match to a 15-point finale.

The two teams were deadlocked in the final set before Dzinich got the ball in her hands. There were two lead changes and two ties before the Crimson Bears pulled away.

JDHS will head to the state tournament for the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska Volleyball State Championships at West Anchorage High School on Nov. 9-11.

Saturday’s match was Ibias’ last. He’s retiring from coaching. Building relationships with his players is what he’ll miss most, he said, but it’s “time to pass the torch.”

“The seniors that I had this year, I am so lucky to have coached them for the last four years. It’s the part of coaching that I am going to miss is building those relationships with those girls,” Ibias said.


Juneau-Douglas High School senior Leah Spargo had her best game since injuring her ankle in last month’s J.I.V.E. tournament as JDHS defeated TMHS 3-0 (25-16, 25-21, 25-15) Friday night in Ketchikan.

It was the second match of the Region V Tournament.

Spargo completed eight kills and 15 digs while Cassie Dzinich cashed in on 15 kills and 15 digs.

The Falcons led during just two brief moments in the entire game. After losing the first set, Maxie Saceda-Hurt scored the go-ahead point to break a 2-2 tie in the second set. JDHS immediately tied the game. The Falcons furnished a 7-6 lead shortly after, but again the Crimson Bears immediately snuffed out the TMHS lead. After trading several points with the Falcons, the Crimson Bears went on a 9-2 run to take control of the game and go up 2-0 in sets.

The Friday before the match, the Crimson Bears put the Falcons in a 2-0 jam before losing three in a row before their home fans. This time though, JDHS wouldn’t let the lead slip away. The Crimson Bears squeezed the life from their crosstown opponent by going on a 10-1 run to open the third set.

TMHS went on to beat Ketchikan High School 3-0 this morning (25-3, 25-9, 25-9) to head to a 2 p.m. Region V final against JDHS.


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